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Homeless student parking bill delayed

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Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
State Assemblyman Marc Berman is delaying a bill that would require community colleges to let homeless students sleep in campus parking lots. A parking lot at the rear of Foothill College, above, has been used in the past by at least one homeless student as a place to park his car and sleep.

State Assemblyman Marc Berman announced Tuesday (Sept. 3) that he will postpone his bill requiring community colleges to allow homeless students to sleep in their cars on campus. 

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the bill Aug. 30 with amendments that Berman said in a statement “weaken the bill to the point that it fails to address the reality that our students are facing today.”

Berman, whose district includes Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View, announced he was making Assembly Bill 302 a two-year bill, delaying a vote on the measure.

State Senator Jerry Hill, whose district also covers this area, was among the members of the appropriations committee who voted Aug. 30 to pass the bill as amended.

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s amendments would delay implementation of the bill from April 2020 to July 2021.

Community colleges would also have an easier time opting out of the bill’s requirements. Before, community colleges had to provide three types of support services for homeless students to opt out. Now, colleges need only meet one of the criteria.

Finally, the amended version would exempt community colleges whose parking facilities are within 250 feet of an elementary school. Berman particularly objected to that provision.

“Homeless students are not pedophiles that need to be kept away from children,” Berman said in the statement. “They are men and women – many of them barely adults themselves – who are trying to improve their lives by obtaining a better education.”

The bill has generated substantial controversy in recent months, both statewide and locally.

After residents spoke out in opposition to the bill, the Los Altos Hills Town Council voted last month to send a letter to Berman expressing concerns about the legislation, including potential problems with vandalism, trash, trespassing and safety.

The Foothill-De Anza Community College District hasn’t taken an official position on the bill. Instead, administrators have both acknowledged the severity of the student homelessness problem, while also expressing reservations about the bill, including that no money is set aside to pay for the bill’s implementation.

Berman said Tuesday that by delaying the bill, he plans to work with the governor’s office in the fall “to identify ways to more urgently alleviate the struggles that our community college students are facing every day, in a way that treats them with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

For more coverage of this bill, read the Sept. 11 issue of the Town Crier.

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